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Medical professors quit in droves over expansion plan

Medical Professors Association of Korea to hold closed-door meeting on Saturday amid deepening conflict with government

By Park Jun-hee

Published : March 8, 2024 - 12:16

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Professors at Seoul National University’s College of Medicine attend a faculty council meeting held at Seoul National University Hospital in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap) Professors at Seoul National University’s College of Medicine attend a faculty council meeting held at Seoul National University Hospital in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, Thursday. (Yonhap)

Medical professors are quitting in droves in a show of protest against the Korean government’s planned hike in the medical school enrollment quota, as they join trainee doctors in taking collective action.

The dean’s group at Kyungpook National University School of Medicine issued a statement late Thursday that they would resign collectively “to take full responsibility for the situation,” according to the Daegu Medical Association on Friday.

“We’ve openly expressed strong opposition (to the expansion plan) several times, but the university requested a (drastic) increase in the number of medical students that the school can’t handle,” the statement read.

“As an educator, (we) can no longer ignore the crisis (happening) in medical education, so we plan to resign,” it further read.

This comes after 40 medical schools nationwide have collectively requested an increase in the annual student quota by 3,401 in a government survey. The figure is 1.7 times higher than the planned increase of 2,000 students, and professors argue that schools requested the increase without heeding their opinions.

Following their peers, University of Ulsan College of Medicine professors also shook hands on tendering their resignations during an emergency general meeting held online late Thursday with some 254 professors from three affiliated hospitals in attendance. The affiliated hospitals are Asan Medical Center, one of the country’s “big five” medical institutions, Ulsan University and GangNeung Asan Hospital.

Also, nine members of the dean’s office at Catholic University’s College of Medicine submitted their resignation letters Thursday, saying that providing education to students “will be impossible” under the planned hike.

Medical professors at Gyeongsang National University have also tendered their resignations, while those at Wonkwang University and Yeungnam University warned of collective action if trainee doctors and students at their schools suffer any damage.

Amid deepening conflict between the government and the medical circle, Kim Jeong-eun, the dean of Seoul National University’s College of Medicine, on late Thursday urged professors to engage in discussions with the public rather than abruptly stepping down from their posts in an email sent to faculty members.

The faculty council at SNU Medical School has demanded that Kim, as well as Kim Young-tae, the president and CEO of Seoul National University Hospital, step down for submitting a request to expand the student enrollment quota to the Education Ministry without considering their opinions.

The specifics of the collective action will likely be announced after the Medical Professors Association of Korea’s closed-door meeting, which will be held on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Medical Association issued a statement late Thursday saying it stands in solidarity with the World Medical Association in supporting the Korean Medical Association, the largest doctors’ group here with some 140,000 members.

“The Korean government should take responsibility, ensure reasonable working conditions, and develop strategic medical education plans. Attempts by the government to prevent doctors from resigning through forceful means are a violation of human rights.”